Is Digital Health ever going to become mainstream?
I’ve been involved with Digital Health since 2012. At that time, the industry was espousing how Digital Health was ready to explode – applications were going to be prescribed by physicians; men, women, and children would readily adopt these solutions as they had Facebook and texting; physicians would be “led” through artificial intelligence to make better-informed diagnoses and treatments.
While there have been some interesting pilots and plenty of new entrants into the market, one would be hard-pressed to point to more than a few dozen products or services that have gained substantial traction over the last 5 years. This despite approximately $4.5 billion of venture capital invested in 2015 alone.
This begs the question as to whether Digital Health is going to go the way of the early Dot Coms and simply crash and burn? The Dot Com reference may not be such a bad analog. While many companies did disappear, some went on to not only survive but to thrive. Think Amazon, Google, Expedia, or TripAdvisor, or Salesforce.com.
The common theme amongst the companies that thrived is the ability to use data to make more informed decisions. The benefits manifested themselves in terms of lower prices, faster access to information, better decision making, frictionless commerce, and lower-cost products and services.
While far from a comprehensive list, the following companies appear to share in those characteristics:
Health Catalyst – improved data warehousing, analytics, and outcome improvements
Zebra Medical Vision – imaging analytics enabling healthcare institutions to identify patients at risk of disease and offer preventive treatment pathways
Evolent Health – clinical and financial improvements through value-based care
Philips’ Digital Pathology Platform –digital image review platform enabling the future use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve patient outcomes
AliveCor – turns a smartphone into a clinical-quality electrocardiogram (ECG) recorder
Ginger.io – uses data from mobile phones to model user behavior and make inferences about health and wellness in a frictionless manner
In all of the solutions/companies listed above, the success is not about a specific technology, but rather a solution to a medical/business problem in the healthcare market. While all are enabled by technology, the technology used is less important than the actual problem solved.
How these companies perform in the long-term will be determined by the strategies and tactics that they employ over the coming years; companies sharing these characteristics are in a good position to find success. While the vast majority of digital health companies started over the last five+ years are likely to fail, the companies noted above (and those like them) have the ability to define the foundation for the next-generation of digital health solutions. Whether we call it Digital Health 2.0 or some other moniker, there is a robust ecosystem being built for the next wave of mainstream Digital Health solutions.
Note: The author has no financial or business interests in any of the companies mentioned in this blog.